Friday, 28 April 2017

Common Bar Edge Street Manchester 28th April 2017

I was looking for a breakfast venue and Common Bar got our business, as other places in the near vicinity, had no clearly marked vegan options on the menu.   When will places learn, that they are losing business, by not making an effort to provide vegan options.   You certainly cannot miss Common Bar with its very bright exterior, it does stand out.

Inside we sat in the window, whilst looking at the menus, it is a huge place, very deceiving from the outside.

The menu has various vegan options, including vegan breakfast, served with some of the best sourdough in Manchester, made by Pollen Bakery.

I asked for the vegan breakfast, without tofu and beans (due to allergies) with extra avocado and mushrooms and a large black decaf Americano.

My breakfast was delicious and just the thing, after a few glasses of wine the night before, it was really tasty and the sourdough, well what can I say.   I would definitely recommend Common Bar and will revisit.

The Refuge by Volta Oxford Street Manchester 27th April 2017

The Refuge by Volta is in The Principal Hotel a magnificent iconic Grade II listed building, dating back to 1890, when it opened as The Refuge Assurance Company.

The Refuge is a cool bar and dining room, serving cocktails, small plates and sharing dishes from around the world.

I enquired as to vegan options, with some confusion initially, but after a chat with the Restaurant Manager, I booked a table for dinner.   I was interested to hear, that he considered the menu light on vegan dishes and was hoping to extend their options, at the end of the meal, I would say this is badly needed.

We had drinks in the spacious bar first, which has an outside area, with a room called The Winter Gardens to sit in and an area for playing pool and table football.   The place is so huge that no one area, impinges on another.

We went through to the restaurant, after having a drink in the bar and were shown to a lovely table in a booth, great for people watching.  

We ordered a very nice bottle of Quinta Milu La Cometa Ribera Del Duero wine from Spain, a top quality vegan wine.

Our waitress Lauren gave us menus and then another lady came over to ask about my vegan pre-order and then another waitress brought some olives to the table and here began some confusion.

Several waiters appeared with other plates, as part of a vegan tasting menu, so I explained that I had only pre-ordered mutabal and flatbread, so chef could omit the sour cream.   I think there was a communication problem and all the dishes I had suggested could be veganised, had been made.   However Steven who is not vegan felt obliged to help me out, as it was a banquet, so he only ordered one dish for himself.

 Fattoush salad

 Mutabal and flatbread


 Broccolini with breadcrumbs

 Fennel and pear salad

 Volanic tomato salad

 Radicchio and orange salad with orange blossom

I failed to take individual photos of some of the food, but there was also padron peppers and some other bread, with what we thought was quince jelly.

We had to leave some of the food, there was far too much and I was worried about the cost.   However Lauren, having spoken to the Manager on duty, said that they would knock the food off the bill, which we protested about, as we had eaten a fair bit, but they insisted.

Would I return to The Refuge, for a drink definitely, but based on their current veganised food options, basically salad or vegetables, most of it cold, with no protein source, no I would not.   The food tasted okay, was seasoned and presented nicely, I loved the peppers and the mutabal, but it all lacked imagination or creativity and took me back to dining out thirty years ago, when no-one knew what to feed a vegan.

Service however, throughout the night, was brilliant, what a friendly and professional team, special thanks to Lauren and Matt.

The Tea Room At The Midland Hotel Peter Street Manchester

The Midland Hotel is an iconic building, located on Peter Street, close to Oxford Road and Piccadilly train stations.   The Midland Hotel is an impressive building, built a hundred years ago and many a famous guest, including Kings, Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers and rock stars, have walked across its threshold.

I have never experienced afternoon tea, but a recent email from The Midland Hotel, promoting their new Tea Room, opening on the 15th April 2017, got me all fired up.   I emailed to enquire about a vegan afternoon tea, whilst accommodating my allergies.   I received a very positive response from Tearoom Manager Thomas Smith, who said they offered a vegan menu and chef could tweak the menu to suit my allergies, so I booked immediately.

I am a member of two Manchester vegan Facebook groups and word was they served vegan afternoon tea on bone china, rather bizarre, from a vegan point of view.   I emailed Thomas to ask if they could offer alternative crockery and received this response, which is the epitome of good service:

Apologies, I'm waiting on confirmation from our crockery manufacturers that the other items we have elsewhere in the hotel are definitely vegan friendly (from a fairly in depth Google search I'm pretty confident that they are)

I must admit it's something we hadn't considered, but we'll definitely have a solution for you and for our entire vegan afternoon tea service moving forward.  

Its really no trouble, all confirmed, our usual hotel crockery (for banqueting, breakfast etc) is vegan friendly, so we will make use of that for your visit.   Once again, thanks for bringing this to my attention, we will now make it standard practice for all vegan afternoon tea.

I was so excited on the day and although I did not take photos of the Tearoom itself, as I did not want to impinge on other diners experience, it is a beautiful room, specially refurbished for the purpose of afternoon tea.

A warm welcome off Thomas got our visit off to a great start and as promised different crockery was provided for me.   I drank a very nice glass of vegan Montaudon champagne, whilst deciding on my tea choice, opting for peppermint and caramel.

There was a bit of a wait for the food to appear, but I imagine this is due to it being freshly made to order, so no chance of dry curled up sandwiches or stale cakes, but it was worth waiting for.

My sandwiches and cakes were placed on a tea stand, next to the table and looked so appealing I had to dive in straight away.   I got carried away taking food photos, so have had to rein myself in and not post them all.

 Smashed avocado, chipotle chilli and
semi dried tomato on crispy tortilla

Moroccan spiced carrot, butternut squash and
pumpkin seeds on granary bread

 English cucumber, Hendricks gin and apple chutney
on dark malt bread

Roasted vegetable and sweetcorn wrap

Roast red pepper and houmous with coriander

The sandwiches were packed with filling, moist, totally delicious, satisfying but light.   I had reservations they would be too filling and I would be unable to do justice to the cakes, but the portions were well thought out.

 Banana and coconut bread with raspberry gel

Bitter chocolate cake with crystallised hazelnuts

 Fruit scone

 Plain scone

Scone with plum jam and almond cream

Almond cream

I ate my mini red berry pavlova, without taking a photo, although you can see it on the cake stand above, as it stuck to the serving plate and it was too squished for a photo, but understandable, as the room was warm and they are delicate things.   However it made me realise I need to go back to the drawing board, on meringue making, far superior to mine, like a soft Italian meringue.

The cakes were scrumptious, especially the chocolate cake and the chefs made almond cream with almond milk, which made a perfect partner for my scones and plum jam.   The scones were as light as a feather, with a lovely open texture.

Great thought and consideration has been given to the vegan afternoon tea and it cannot be easy for the kitchen, having to deal with a vegan like me, with allergies, but they came up trumps.   If you are unable to finish the tea, they provide you with a beautiful box to carry any leftovers home with you.   I have to hold my hand up, I did not need a box. 

Front of house service, headed up by Thomas was excellent and there was no rush either, it was a wonderful experience and one I cannot wait to repeat.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Good Carma Foods Flavour Fusion Spreadables

I was lucky enough to be sent samples, of Flavour Fusion Spreadables, the latest products from Good Carma Foods, in identical flavours to their dairy free Parmesan alternatives, which I am a huge fan of and reviewed here.

I love the spreads are preservative, additive, palm oil and soya free, only made with almonds, yeast flakes with added vitamin B12, Himalayan salt and olive oil.   They are packed in 60 g jars, so ideal for travelling, in fact my immediate thought was how great to take on a cruise.

I made a wrap for my lunch, with the chilli spreadable and I was pleased to find it had a spicy punch.   The appearance is not as smooth as some spreadable cheese, but I preferred it like that as it had texture and a bite to it, I loved it.

The chilli spreadable would be fantastic on toast, cheese crackers, oatcakes, Mexican tacos, or mixed with breadcrumbs as a crunchy topping or in pasta dishes.

I then made garlic butter, with some Pure olive spread and the garlic spreadable, to top some oven baked sausage stuffed jacket potatoes.

This made a cracking dish, with a good garlic hit and I was immediately thinking of other uses, like garlic bread, with pasta and roast vegetables, as a sandwich spread, cheesy sauces, its uses are endless.

Finally I used the original spreadable, in a veganised River Cottage recipe, for leek and cheese toastie, swopping the sourdough for a flatbread.

The original spreadable added a lovely cheesy flavour, to the creamy leek mixture and when sprinkled on top and grilled, added a golden brown top, it is another versatile product.

I love the spreadables, which are a fantastic addition to the Good Carma range.   I also like the pot size, which would be useful to take in my bag, to add some depth to dishes, when dining out and vegan dishes are a let down and need pimping up with some flavour.

Disclaimer:   I received free samples of this product and have not been paid for this review and all opinions are my own.